Do you feel a sense of foreboding emanating from the words, “Barcelona tips and tricks“?
No, I’m not referring to some hidden pheromone in this Barcelona travel guide that will bring all the boys to the yard, without any use of my milkshake.
Okay yeah, that was probably not the sage list of Barcelona travel dos and don’ts that you were hoping for.
Quickly moving away (or running) from the weirdness.
What I’m trying to say rather
I mean, I loved the vibrant nightlife and some of the amazing party hostels in Barcelona.
But Barcelona just didn’t seem to love me back.
Yup, everything that could go wrong during my trip to
We’ll also use all of my ridiculous Barcelona travel fails to create some super useful Barcelona travel tips.
1. Make Sure You Have a Debit Card for your Barcelona Trip (and a little cash)
As we all know, since it’s painfully obvious, I’m a silly American.
As such, I assumed that any and every country in Europe accepted credit cards as a valid form of payment.
Yeah, that’s a hard no.
That’s why one of my biggest Barcelona tips is to carry cash or a debit card with you at all times, even if you just spend one day in Barcelona.
Well dear reader, when you try and pay with a credit card during your Barcelona vacation, the machine will ask you for your pin number.
And since credit cards don’t have pin numbers, the transaction won’t go through.
So don’t be like me and carry only a credit card, with literally no other way to pay for your meal, when traveling to Barcelona (this really did happen and I thought I was going to spend the night washing dishes).
***Carry a little cash with you as well since many places do not take debit cards for purchases under €10.***
2. Try and Blend in with the Locals
Here in America:
We value individualism and the right to be as weird as you want, rainbow-colored hair and all.
And while I applaud this and unequivocally say, “Bring on the weirdness”, this characteristic is not a virtue when traveling to Barcelona.
No, they don’t have some cultural aversion to individuality.
Rather, pickpockets are rampant throughout Barcelona.
Anything you can do to help you blend in and look less like a tourist will help draw the pickpocket’s attention away from you during your trip to Barcelona.
Trust me on this one. This is probably one of my most important
I wore a neon green fleece and carried a bright pink backpack; almost as though I was carrying a vibrantly colored sign that called out for criminals in the area to “Plunder me. Rich American tourist walking”.
So blend in and your Barcelona vacation will go much more smoothly than mine.
Which brings me to my next Barcelona travel tip…
3. Don’t Carry All Your Cash and Credit Cards with you
Whether you’re strolling through the city or are doing some awesome day trips from Barcelona,
This is one of the BIGGEST Barcelona travel mistakes of all time.
So as you can probably guess, my wallet was not so surprisingly stolen during my Barcelona trip while I was walking through the metro.
I had gotten too complacent after having no real travel problems while exploring Asia and South America.
I stupidly thought that I was impervious to all travel disasters.
As a result:
I carried almost the entire contents of my wallet with me during my Barcelona vacation.
So one of my top Barcelona tips is don’t be like me and be careful.
You don’t want to spend one of your precious Barcelona vacation days frantically calling your bank, begging them to send you money.
Yup, this chore is probably even more anti-fun than it sounds.
4. Don’t Rush Through Everything
Look, I Understand:
If you’re American then you get MAYBE two weeks of solid vacation time each year.
Your natural inclination is to rush around and see as much as humanly possible during your trip to Barcelona.
Yeah, Don’t Do That.
Instead, think of the overly cliched phrase, “Quality over Quantity”, which holds true for any Barcelona vacation.
There are so many top attractions in Barcelona, Spain that if you rush through the city, you’ll never get to savor them all.
So Take a Deep Breath and Go Slowly:
Take some time to explore La Sagrada Familia and really take in all the exquisite work of Gaudi during your very own, Barcelona Gaudi Tour.
You Can Also:
Stroll through Park Güell, Parc del Laberint d’Horta, and Montjuïc. You can also sit on a bench, sip on some coffee from Onna Cafe, (or Satan’s Coffee Corner or SKYE coffee co. Some of the best coffee in Barcelona), and really enjoy your surroundings.
The more time you take to fully appreciate the architectural marvels around you, the more likely you are to have the best Barcelona vacation ever.
5. Go to the Beach
After sprinting from one Gaudi architectural wonder to the next, I totally forget that Barcelona has some truly incredible beaches.
So as an afterthought:
I kind of rushed to the beach, sat for five minutes, and rushed back. Yeah, not one of the great Barcelona trip highlights.
Take some time to relax at the beach and not run through it like you’re ticking something off your to-do list.
Keep a close eye on your belongings while at the beach. Some of my friends have had their passports stolen because they left their bag on the beach while they were in the water.
***Some of the best beaches in Barcelona include Barceloneta Beach, Nova Icaria Beach, Bogatell Beach, Mar Bella Beach, Ocata Beach, Caldetes Beach, St Pol de Mar Beach, Castelldefels Beach, etc.
***WARNING: Barceloneta Beach is the MOST popular Barcelona Beach. So while it is worth a visit, it can be insanely crowded during the high season. Therefore, during that time of year, I highly recommend going to one of Barcelona’s smaller and quieter beaches.***
6. Pay Attention at Barcelona Airport
So this is one of my more embarrassing Barcelona tips but whatever.
I’ll sacrifice what little dignity I have for the greater good.
When I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain:
I was insanely early for my night flight because well, I have horrendous anxiety and if I don’t arrive like three hours early, I’ll have a panic attack.
So I killed time by shopping and walking through the terminal.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, it was time to board my flight so I strolled over to my terminal and prepared to board.
Or so I thought…
In reality, I had inadvertently walked out of the airport when I misread a sign.
I dashed upstairs, threw my bag through security, raced to the gate, and made it just in time.
So glad this happened late at night when the airport was a veritable ghost town.
So pay attention to signage in the airport. And if you’re confused:
Don’t be scared to ask for help. The staff is there to assist you as you naviga through the airport.
Me? I let my social anxiety take over, didn’t ask for help, and paid the price.
Talk about a travel fail of Titanic proportions! Haha. I love me a super lame pun. Woot!
7. Don’t Eat on Las Ramblas
This one is kind of obvious but clearly, people make this mistake since there are a ton of tourist traps, I mean restaurants, along Las Ramblas.
But Las Ramblas is a must see and the MOST visited street in all of Barcelona.
So it makes sense that for convenience sake, people would eat here.
But don’t. It’s a trap.
The food is insanely overpriced and the quality is no
But how can you tell if a restaurant is a tourist trap?
Do you see a man speaking English and holding an English menu, beckoning you inside? If so then this restaurant is probably a tourist trap.
My rule of thumb:
If the menu comes in five different languages and there are no locals to be found inside then get out! It’s a trap.
The more locals and the less English, the better.
***Some of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona, Spain include Chiringuito Ananda is a great spot to eat on the beach, Jatachi is a must for great Asian food in Barcelona, Can Massis for great vegetarian menus (they have a great three-course menu of the day for €12.90), and La Milanesa Braseria & Cotoletteria & Pizzeria for great Italian food (non-touristy and a three-course menu for €18.90).***
8. Don’t Book Flights to Barcelona, Spain with the Destination “Reus (Barcelona)” or “Girona (Barcelona)”
This is a mistake that I would make, oh wait, I did, only in Milan, not Barcelona.
A lot of times, travelers will attempt to book cheap flights to Barcelona via Ryanair.
And that’s totally fine.
The problem arises when you try to book your tickets because you can choose from three airports that are supposedly in Barcelona; “El Prat Llobregat (Barcelona)”, “Reus (Barcelona)” and “Girona (Barcelona)”.
Stay far away from flights to Reus and Girona!
Both of these airports are well over a 100 kilometers away from Barcelona. So transport costs to the REAL Barcelona will probably offset any money that you save on the flight.
Always try and fly into El Prat, the real Barcelona, Spain airport.
You can easily and cheaply take either the Aerobus to the city center.
9. Stay Away from the Bus Turistic
The hop on, hop off bus sounds great right?
I mean, one bus that drives you to every major tourist attraction in Barcelona. Pretty awesome right?
First of all, the traffic in Barcelona is cray cray. As a result, you’ll spend most of your time touring Barcelona on the bus, praying that the traffic will clear.
The cost of the bus ticket is insanely expensive at €27.00 for an adult, one day ticket, and €36.00 for an adult, two-day ticket.
And even if there is no traffic, there’s no way that you can adequately see all the top Barcelona attractions along the bus route in just two days.
But it’s not gonna happen.
Purchase a single ride metro ticket for €2.20 (if you want a single ride to the airport, that ticket costs €4.60 or €9.20 roundtrip).
An even cheaper option is the T-10 ticket that offers you 10 rides in one zone for €10.20 (does not include a trip to the airport).
***Another cheap option is the HOLA BCN 2 – 5-day travel card. This card gives you unlimited rides on the metro, including trips to and from the airport, and costs €35.00 for five days (or €7.00 a day). A pretty sweet deal. The Barcelona card also gives you unlimited rides on Barcelona public transportation. ***
10. Don’t Forget to Haggle
Truth be Told:
I’m crap at haggling. Somehow I always feel guilty when asking to pay less than the suggested price.
That and I hate talking to strangers. Part of my socially awkward charm I suppose.
But in Barcelona, Haggling is a THING. So for total novices like me:
Here are some simple Barcelona tips to help you haggle successfully.
Pretend you really like an item, and fawn over it until you get the sales person’s attention.
Ask about the price.
Tell them that i’s just too expensive, and hopefully, they’ll lower the price.
At which point:
You proclaim that it’s still too expensive and walk away.
If the salesperson comes after you, BOOM, you’ll get an epic deal.
Pssh, no worries. There are plenty of shops out there. A for effort though!T
11. Take Barcelona’s Aerobus too and from the Airport
Skip the expensive taxi. Not only will it cost you €30, but the price can go up on weekends, holidays, and at night.
And if you’re hotel is located in the old city center, your taxi may not even be able to get to your hotel.
For about €5, hop on the blue Aerobus and in about 25 minutes, BOOM, you’ll be in the center of Barcelona, in Plaça Catalunya.
There are also stops along the way at Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça Universitat.
The Aerobus operates between 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., with a bus departing every five minutes.
You’ll never have to worry about long waits for the bus since a new bus is always just around the corner, literally.
12. Buy Tickets to Major Barcelona Attractions in Advance
If you don’t visit Sagrada Familia, Guell Park, and the Picasso Museum, did you really travel to Barcelona at all?
But it can be difficult to see all of Barcelona’s major attractions when everyone, including their cousin’s, brother’s dog, wants to visit these places and is standing in line with you.
To save time, and your sanity, one of my top Barcelona tips is to buy tickets for all major attractions, online and in advance.
When you arrive, you can skip the painfully long line and frolic right inside, while all the suckers in line give you the death stare.
13. Eat when the locals eat!
Lunch is typically served between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and dinner is usually served between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Super late by American standards but that’s how they do it in Spain so just go with it.
Eat too early and chances are, you’ll be paying way too for a crappy meal at a tourist trap of a restaurant.
So act like a local and you can expect to enjoy your meal like one.
Because let’s be real:
Nobody wants to have to sell their first born just to pay for their meal.
14. Learn How to Tip in Barcelona
Unlike in the States, where tipping anything less than 20% is practically criminal, tipping in Barcelona is NOT mandatory.
As a result:
Tipping really isn’t expected in most situations. However, most people do leave a 10% tip at restaurants and round up when riding a taxi.
But other than that, you can save the tipping for when you get back home.
15. Learn Some Catalan and speak up when you need something
So Spanish and Catalan are NOT the same thing.
Because believe it or not:
Barcelona has two official languages, Catalan and Spanish.
And while everyone does speak Spanish:
Catalan is more often used throughout the day, like at the grocery store or aboard public transportation.
Learning a few essential, Catalan phrases is definitely one of those helpful Barcelona tips.
You can ask for the bill when you want to leave a restaurant since, like in most of Europe, the waiter won’t bring you the check unless you specifically ask for it.
Knowing Catalan is also useful since waiters in Barcelona are not as attentive as those in the States.
They won’t really engage with you you unless you actually tell them that you need something.
So brush up on your Catalan and make your trip to Barcelona a whole lot easier.
You now have all of my super secret Barcelona vacation tips and can now master Barcelona travel.
Okay, maybe master is a bit of an overstatement. And maybe if I had stayed at some of the best hostels in Barcelona then I wouldn’t have committed some of these epic Barcelona travel fails,
But life goes on:
At the very least, you’ll be WAY more prepared for your Barcelona trip than me and hopefully have a much better Barcelona, Spain travel experience.
A Barcelona, Spain vacation that doesn’t include robbery or walking out of the airport or forgetting all forms of payment, except your credit card.
Just watch out for pickpockets, apply copious amounts of sunscreen, keep these Barcelone tips handy, avoid the crowds, and you’ll be sure to have one hell of a Barcelona trip.